The Tamil Nadu police have issued an alert on the possibility of an attack on fishermen crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) for fishing in Sri Lankan waters. Law-enforcing agencies along the coastal districts have been advised to sensitise the fishing community to the risks, in the backdrop of simmering differences between the fishermen of India and Sri Lanka over catching fish in the Katchatheevu area.
According to police sources, mechanised boats fishermen in Rameswaram were on a week-long protest demanding that the Central and State governments permit fishermen of India and Sri Lanka to fish in the Katchatheevu sea area. They also demanded suitable compensation for the boats seized by the Sri Lankan Navy.
Katchatheevu, an uninhibited off-shore island in the Palk Strait, is administered by Sri Lanka. Though the island was jointly managed by India and Sri Lanka allowing the fishermen of both countries to dry their nets there, it was ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974. Since then, Katchatheevu has remained an issue with some political parties in Tamil Nadu demanding that the island be returned to benefit the fishermen of India.
With the mechanised boat fishermen set to enter the sea for fishing from early October 16, security agencies perceived the need to mount a vigil at sea. The Coastal Security Group of the Tamil Nadu police issued an alert stating that the possibility of an attack on Tamil Nadu fishermen by Sri Lankan fishermen could not be ruled out.
Stating that it had received inputs on the crossing of the IMBL by Tamil Nadu fishermen which was objected to by their counterparts in Jaffna and Mannar, the agency said Sri Lankan fishermen had planned to stage an agitation in the sea on October 17 and 18, 2021, demanding the implementation of the Trawler (Mechanised Boat) Prevention Act.
When contacted, Additional Director-General of Police, Coastal Security Group Sandeep Mittal said the Indian Navy and Coast Guard had been alerted to provide enhanced security in vulnerable areas. However, incidents of aggression by the Sri Lankan Navy against Indian fishermen had increased over the last 8 months. “The Sri Lankan Navy needs to be sensitised against using aggressive force against Indian fishermen,” Dr. Mittal said.
In a related development, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has called for the Union government’s intervention to ensure the release of 23 fishermen arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy on October 13, 2021.
In a letter, AIADMK coordinator and former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, drew the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the arrest of the fishermen at Point Pedro where they had gone from Nagapattinam for fishing. The Sri Lankan Navy seized their boats, took the fishermen into custody and took them to Karainagar Naval Base.
Expressing concern over the frequent incidents of arrest of Tamil Nadu fishermen, Mr. Panneerselvam said fishermen were venturing into the sea with a constant fear of attack by the Sri Lankan Navy which was causing a lot of tension and unrest among the community along the coastal districts.